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COVID Causes Long-Term Heart Damage, Says Study

Coronavirus wreaks damage on the heart in a variety of ways 
Male patient wearing face mask and feeling chest pain while being at the hospital during coronavirus epidemic

Early on in the pandemic doctors realized that COVID-19 could wreak major damage on almost every organ in the body — including the heart. While most of the distress is temporary, as months have passed they have realized that some people do not fully recover after becoming infected with the virus. Now, a new study confirms that some survivors suffer long-term heart damage in a variety of ways. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

How Does COVID Damage the Heart?

A three-part review published Monday for the American College of Cardiology found that COVID damages the blood pumping organ, mostly because of how the virus disrupts blood clotting and damages the lungs, reducing their ability to process fresh oxygen into the blood. And, the health impact would be deadly. 

"It is plausible to assume that COVID-19 survivors will be more vulnerable to long-term cardiac morbidity," said Sean P. Pinney, MD, lead author of the study and a professor of medicine, cardiology, at the University of Chicago. "Longitudinal follow-up with multi-modal imaging and physiological testing will be important to describe the full extent of acquired COVID-19 heart disease."

COVID-19 patients with severe infections who were forced to undergo ventilation are most at risk of long-term heart damage, per Pinney and his colleagues. This type of cardiac damage is common for people who suffer similar respiratory infections, such as SARS, they wrote. However, in the case of COVID, the damage appears to be worse. 

In the second study, they noted that there appeared to be myocardial injury in about a quarter of coronavirus patients.

"Myocardial injury results in detectable increases in serum troponin, varying degrees of ventricular dysfunction and relatively frequent cardiac arrhythmias," Pinney said. "Whether these effects are simply associated with poor patient outcomes, including death, or directly contribute to patient mortality is as yet uncertain."

RELATED: 11 Signs COVID is in Your Heart

Obesity Increases Complications

The third study found that people with obesity-related risk factors — including excess body fat, uncontrolled blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol — are at more of a risk of COVID-related complications.

Jeffrey I. Mechanick, MD, lead author of the third study and professor of medicine and medical director of the Marie-Josee and Henry R. Kravis Center for Cardiovascular Health at Mount Sinai Heart, explains that the findings support making intervention a priority, seeing as though a high percentage of Americans suffer from at least one of those risk factors. 

"The role of healthy lifestyles and pharmacotherapy targeting metabolic drivers to reduce cardiovascular risk is well-established," he explained. "However, lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic support shorter-term benefits of these interventions, similar to observed benefits on acute cardiovascular disease outcomes." As for yourself, to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.